Listening to your body, Part 1

...and how Down moves you Up and Forward.

Alright, so I was sidelined this week as I got hit with what I call a “respectable cold” (or flu, I don’t really know which). It is rare to come across an endurance athlete who doesn’t get the moody-cranky-antsy-restlessness bug alongside an acute illness like this. I’m no different.  Of course, I realize I could be far worse and don’t get me wrong, this is not a “woe is me” post. What I did give some thought to this week was something I’ve been hearing a lot from my coach: listen to your body. 

A quick step back…A few months ago, I hired a new coach to help me train for the Leadville 100 trail run. I’ve had a few different coaches in the past 10 years and all of them had their unique qualities and skills from which I learned and benefitted.

I was drawn to my new coach for a number of reasons. For one, he lives at an elevation close to where I live (above 8000 ft) and lives in Colorado, so he understands some of the challenges of training that mountain living poses. Secondly, he has proven, outstanding experience at Leadville so he knows what I am getting into first hand. The third reason for me wanting to work with this coach is his style. I’ll generalize by just saying he’s different from any coach I’ve worked with previously… and I dig it. More details to be shared later on, but one thing he teaches is to listen to the body and this shows repeatedly in his training structure.

I have to admit at first I thought I knew how to listen to the body and what it meant. You have an ache, you watch it. You feel fatigued, you make sure to honor sleep. Etcetera and kinda cliche. It turns out it’s way more than that... and way more complicated. There’s that brain doing some tricky things.. and training for a 100-mile event is different than an Ironman, a marathon, or anything else. Duh, right?  The bottom line here is...well, I’m learning I have a lot more to learn. Not only with how to listen to my body but what to do with what I am hearing from the body.  I hope that makes sense.

So, for these past eight days of illness, I thought about this more as I had days where I pushed myself a bit much, which knocked me down further. Am I going to learn this 'listen to the body' skill? How is my body responding to my decisions? Why is my brain wanting different things than what the body is capable of right now? In the end, it has (only) been a week’s lost of training time and productive work time. But, I can see how essential this skill is, and will continue to be throughout the next several months of training…and beyond. I know my coach is going to put me through some tough times to help me learn myself (strengths and weaknesses) better. This training isn’t just about  pacing, distance, elevation gain, heart rate, nutrition. Underlying it, I see a better mind-body connection in my future and as corny as it sounds, I’m loving the process.

My down week, I know, has moved me up.

Now, I’m ready for more forward steps.

Thanks for reading,